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Executive Leadership Program Builds Pipeline To The C-Suite For Pittsburgh Black Professionals

Brian Cook
90.5 WESA
A group picture of The Advanced Leadership Initiative’s inaugural class. TALI’s mission, in partnership with CMU’s Tepper School of Business, is to prepare African American business professionals in the Pittsburgh area for executive advancement.";s:3:

The main goal of The Advanced Leadership Initiative, informally known as TALI, is to build a pipeline of African-American executive leadership within the region.



To do that, the group has developed an educational program geared towards lessening the achievement gap for those aspiring to reach the C-suite, or place as a top staffer with a job starting with "chief,"according to Evan Frazier. 


Frazier is TALI’s founding director and senior vice president of community affairs for Highmark Health.


“The vision is to invest in, 20 to 25 high potential African Americans every year. That will then help to build the pipeline that we see is needed,” Frazier says.


In partnership with Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, a group of cohorts go through the Executive Leadership Academy, a rigorous seven-month training program to help participants maximize their potential in the Pittsburgh marketplace.


“They help to create a world class executive education curriculum that weaves in three parts,” Frazier says. “Management leadership types of things with finance woven into it. Along with you know how does diversity play itself out in giving people an understanding of how do you navigate implicit bias.”


In addition to learning about successful upper management business practices, Frazier also says some tricks of the trade are woven into the training as well.


“Each member of the cohort has their own executive coach,” Frazier says. “Each person will also receive their own executive mentor. If you don't have a sponsor to certain levels of management you're not getting into. You have to be sponsored into it and so we recognize that.”


Those executive coaches and mentors come from the ranks of business professionals already active in the region’s business community.


“When you get into corporate America there are nuances that are necessary for individuals to recognize and to be aware of that help them to prepare for those c-suite positions,” says Marsha Jones, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at PNC, as well as co-chair of the Executive Leadership Academy. “It is incumbent upon us as corporations to be able to create those kinds of opportunities for them.”


Jones says retention of corporate leaders is key, as the initiative helps foster diverse relationships within the region. She points to the program’s unique qualities.


“There is not anything like it in the country,” she says. “Yet, we believe that there are number of the cities that will probably imitate it because it is needed. It can brand Pittsburgh as a very innovative type of city that many individuals would want to be able to come and become part of.”


As the inaugural class of cohorts wrap up this July, participants will be receiving certifications from both TALI and CMU. But Greg Spencer, a TALI founding co-chair and CEO of Randall Industries, says the program is already paying dividends.


“There are some that will be promoted, some have been promoted already,” Spencer says.


He stresses that the program is geared toward diversifying the city and region’s corporate sector, but it’s also about deepening TALI alums’ roots in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.


“One of the things that's important for us is to keep them in this region and they will stay in this region if they see the opportunities,” Spencer says. “So, the key for us is to help identify opportunities in the region. We have to look at everything here as community asset.”

Brian Cook is an award-winning multimedia journalist.